Establishing and Maintaining Positive Relationships with Students

Relationships are important in every aspect of our lives. Positive relationships create stability and contribute to our wellbeing. In the classroom it also creates a safe environment conducive to learning, and it allows for more open and honest engagement between students and their teacher, while at the same time, providing an effective way to reduce or prevent classroom disruptions.

In “The Key to Effective Classroom Management” External link opens in new window or tab. , by Youki Terada, he presents an array of strategies for teachers to establish and maintain positive relationships with their students, as well as strategies to repair damaged relationships. He describes this as a three-phase process, which you, as an educator, can easily identify, if it is practiced within your classroom.

EMR Phase



The aim for the “establish” phase is to engage in intentional practices to cultivate a positive relationship with the students.

When a teacher establishes relationships with all students, they are most likely to learn and engage in desired behaviors and respond to your attempts to correct their behavior. A teacher cannot maintain a relationship they do not have, so it is essential to first establish relationships with students.


The aim for the "maintain" phase is to sustain the quality of an established positive relationship with students over time by intentionally implementing maintenance practices.

Research has shown that the quality of relationships can diminish over time because people take one another for granted (e.g., ignore desired behavior or miss opportunities to reinforce the student). They may also unintentionally become more negative by paying more attention to challenging behavior.


The aim for the "restore" phase is to intentionally repair any harm to the relationship once there has been a negative interaction between the teacher and student.

This is important because negative interactions can weaken the relationship and cause the student to be less engaged in class, making it harder to correct their behavior, and more challenging to motivate them to take on increasingly more difficult academic tasks. As such, teachers must intentionally re-connect with the student to restore the relationship back its previous positive state.


Educators can use the chart below to identify where they are at in this three phase process.



In place? Yes or No?

1. Establishing relationship

To what extent has the teacher established a positive relationship with the student that is characterized by trust, connection, and understanding?


2. Maintaining relationship

To what extent does the teacher implement the 5 to 1 ratio of positive to negative interactions with the student?


3. Restoring relationship

To what extent does the teacher engage in a restorative conversation with the student after a negative interaction to repair any lingering harm done to the relationship?